Linguapress English Grammar
Advanced level reading resources Intermediate reading resources English grammar online Language games and puzzles
Linguapress English Grammar

Adjective order in English

Putting adjectives in the right order in English

It's as easy as ABC

How is it that native English speakers naturally place adjectives (and secondary nouns acting as adjectives) in the "correct" order when writing or speaking ? Very few native English speakers have ever learnt, or even thought of, the rules that determine the order in which adjectives are placed.
     This obviously means that the rules are a) very basic and intuitive, and b) very few in number. More than rules, they are principles.

Adjectives are placed in English according to their nature or type. There are three groups of adjectives, defining the qualities of a noun :  
A. Articles & accessories, relative or perceived circumstantial qualities.
  At the start of group A come Articles and determiners
 B. Basic, permanent but circumstantial qualities
C. Classifying adjectives, innate or fundamental permanent qualities

And of course, they will be placed in the natural order ABC, with the most fundamental adjectives coming closest to the noun, i.e. last.  Each group contains different types of adjectives, which may (or may not) require a specific sequence.

Adjective order in English

Group A Group B Group C Noun
Articles and accessories Basic Classifying
Article or determiner
  >  Perceived quality,
      > Size, weight, age
   > Nationality
         > Gender
(sometimes gender before nationality)
Permanent quality
   > substance
(often a secondary noun)
An attractive ancient British copper necklace
My first big green rubber ball
His five old American cousins.
British female voters
Magnificent old American Ford automobile.
Memorable French skiing holiday
Dangerous and useless chemical experiment
Nice fresh red Spanish tomatoes

Important ! It is common to find two or three adjectives before a noun, but it is very rare indeed to find more than four adjectives at a time. Memorise the first example which clearly (and literally)  illustrates the ABC rule.

 When two group A adjectives of similar nature qualify the same noun, they may be linked by and. However and is never required to link adjectives from different groups.

 You can learn more about linking two adjectives with the word and in the Descriptive Grammar of English ebook or paperback.

Look at English grammar with Linguapress.  Simple rules, clear examples.

Return to Linguapress home page

CopyrightCopyright information.
Copyright by  -  Free to view, free to share,  free to use in class, free to print, but not free to copy..
If you like this page and want to share it with others,  just share a link, don't copy.


Cette page en français: ►
L'ordre des adjectifs en anglais

► Go to  English grammar index
Selected main grammar pages
Verbs: the present tense
Verbs : the future
Past tenses
Verbs of enabling
Gerunds, participles and -ing forms
The imperative
Modal verbs of obligation
Irregular verb tables
Nouns, pronouns, adjectives
Noun phrases
Personal pronouns
Adjectives in English
Some any and no
Sentences & clauses
Relative clauses in English
Conditional clauses in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English
More resources
Reading resources: advanced 
Reading resources: intermediate
Crosswords and word games

Discover Britain - institutions, tourism, life

online shopping
Just click for
clothes,  fashion,  souvenirs, British specialities, sportswear
and more
Discover  UK stores that offer great prices and deliver all over the world

Linguapress respects your privacy and does not collect personal data. We use cookies only to log anonymous visitor stats and enable essential page functions; click   to remove this message, otherwise click for more details